INTRODUCTION. An exegesis and exhortation from Ephesians 5:1-6. This post will be the second in a series of articles designed to give the disciple of Jesus biblical tactics and strategies to fight the sin of sexual immorality in its various manifestations. (See also Post #513 from 4/5/2022 and Post #511 from 4/1/2022.)
5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:1-6
These are all part of the worthy walk from Ephesians 4:1: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” In Ephesians 5, the apostle continues his exhortations by instructing us about the more fleshly sins. But he begins by reminding us of our family heritage.
5:1-2. Paul has told us in the doctrinal section of the epistle that we have an adoption as sons (1:5) and therefore we have an inheritance (1:11, 18) from the Father. Since that is true, then we will live lives that demonstrate our adoption and that testify to our being heirs.
Children naturally imitate their parents. God has wired us that way. Children are constantly observing all the parent’s behaviors and mannerisms to try to imitate everything the parent does. One clear example is that a son will observe how his father walks and he will imitate that walk. (See John 5:19.) One of the clearest indicators of sonship is that he walks like his father.
Likewise, the beloved children of God strive to imitate God. And the glorious, good news is that we now have been adopted by a perfect heavenly Father whom we long to imitate. So, if we are, indeed, children of God, we will imitate God in all our behavior and will thus give evidence of our family ties (1 Peter 1:15). We will walk in love, like our Father.
APPLICATION: Therefore, consider these things the next time you are tempted to engage in some kind of sexual sin. “I am a beloved child of God. I long to be an imitator of God by walking in love. Therefore, all my behavior, in public and in private, will glorify my older brother, Jesus, and will bring glory to God.” In the power of that truth and resolve, then vigorously reject the temptation.
MOTIVATION: 5:1-2. Since we have been adopted as sons of the living God, the Holy One of Israel, let us live holy lives at all times, in our minds and with our hands.
5:3. (This verse is a pure command.) These are the sins that should not even be named among believers. What Paul is saying is that these sinful behaviors are doubly dangerous. First, they defile the professing disciple, and second, they defame the name of Jesus. Continuing in this sin causes believers to begin to question the truth of your testimony. “Does a true believer continue in these sins that are not even to be mentioned?” And continuing in these sins causes unbelievers to mock and ridicule the name of Christ. Unbelievers know that believers claim that Jesus is holy and that He came to set His people free from sin yet here we have a professing believer who continues in overt, “unmentionable” sin. This causes the mockers to say, “Does Jesus really set you free from sin, or is this just another religion?” In 2 Samuel 12:14, Nathan rebukes King David, saying, “By this deed you have given occasion for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” In Romans 2:24, Paul declares, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Both of these verses are declaring how the sin of the believer calls into question the power and the holiness of our glorious gospel.
Immorality. This “immorality” is specifically sexual immorality. Also mentioned is all (any) impurity or greed. These behaviors should never be mentioned among us or ever be said about us. The worthy walk (4:1) and the life of the heir (the one with the inheritance) exclude these things. Those who display these sins bring scrutiny on their inheritance. (Refer back to Ephesians 1:11, 18 which talk about our inheritance in Christ as part of what God has given us because of our election.) If you evidence these sins that are not even to be mentioned, you may be testifying that you are NOT an heir and you do not have an inheritance.
It is possible to think you are an heir, but to be wrong. You think you are an heir of God with an inheritance, but your behaviors and your sins betray you. Hebrews 12:16f gives us a drastic warning about Esau who despised his birthright and lost his blessing through his carelessness. So we must not throw away our inheritance through our sins.
5:4. (This verse is a pure command.) These seemingly “lesser sins” are forbidden because may simply be clues that point to uglier sins hidden in the dark or just beneath the surface. The person who “walks” in this way is at least immature and unsanctified and is at worst unsaved. The worthy walk is waging war against all of these sins, not just the “biggies.” Sanctification must ruthlessly attack all filthiness and get rid of it. Purge it out. Put it to death. There is no such thing as a “lesser sin,” because every sin sent Christ to the cross. But we also need to remember that any sin is food to feed the flesh and to strengthen the flesh and empower its lusts. Therefore we must put all sin to death. We need to starve it, choke it, smother it, or buffet it. Our approach must be a zero tolerance policy – no sin, no matter how “small,” is acceptable for the disciple of Jesus. As we have seen before in another lesson in this series, these sins “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
APPLICATION. Be alert for and wage war against all sin, no matter how seemingly harmless. It is the little foxes that ruin the vineyards (Song of songs 2:15).
5:5. “This you know with certainty that no one who displays these behaviors has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” That sounds pretty strong! You may say, “Paul seems to be trying to frighten me.” Yes, exactly. That is exactly what Paul is doing! The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul would rather frighten you into casting all your sins far away from you than leave you falsely confident that because you are a professing Christian you can sin with impunity.
We need to think about this verse for a second. For Paul is writing to Ephesian believers and warning them that we know with certainty there are some people who do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. But we also know that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) and are secure in their salvation (1 John 5:11-13). In America we have been taught so much about the security of the believer that even apostolic warnings tend to be discounted and explained away. But like the author’s warnings in the epistle of “Hebrews,” Paul is issuing a stern warning to those who display ungodly behavior and saying, “Your immorality and impurity may indicate that you do not have salvation.” The principle is that BEHAVIOR TRUMPS PROFESSION. This should serve as a red alert for all professing Christians who are “struggling” with these types of fleshly sins, particularly sexual sins. Behavior trumps profession. The fruit reveals the root. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” So, if there is a disconnect between your profession and your behavior, then what the behavior reveals represents the truth. Your immoral behavior can disqualify your testimony.
And so, if others see you as an immoral or impure person, or covetous man, you have your warning and you know you are in danger. Be frightened, and immediately and radically change your behavior, or you may be lost.
APPLICATION. Make sure that your behavior and the thoughts in your head are consistent with the testimony you profess. Be open to be alarmed.
5:6. One of the consequences of the fall is that there are deceivers in the world who delight in destroying your soul. Some people will tell you lies and deceive you for no other reason than to bring about your ruin. Yes, Satan relishes your spiritual demise, but he is not the only one. There are people you encounter in books and on TV, and people who stand behind pulpits or parade up and down on platforms who are just as pleased as Satan when their deceptive words bring about your shipwreck. They are drinking the drug of power over others, and your ruin is their reward.
So, Paul vigorously warns about these deceivers. “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (5:6). The deceiver will tell you smooth things, that your sin is not really sin and that a token response is true repentance. They will say, “God loves you, so how can He be angry with you?” or “God does not expect perfection, just your best effort.” The deceiver will teach you things that sound good, but that do not appear anywhere in God’s word. “Let no one deceive you!” It is one thing to have received no warning and then to be deceived by a crafty charlatan, but it is another to receive apostolic warning about those who would deceive you and then still be deceived. Do not be a fool! Do not be deceived!
These deceivers will try to convince you that there is no consequence to your secret sins of lust, but the word of God tells the truth. “On account of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”
APPLICATION 1. Listen carefully to faithful, trusted teachers and preachers of the Word, and find a church where you trust the pastor’s teaching. Be discerning when listening to those who have not already proven themselves trustworthy. Reject wholesale those who deceive you and tell you lies to control you.
APPLICATION 2. Do not listen to anyone who tries to convince you that your fleshly lusts are not sin and that they are not deadly dangerous. That person is a deceiver and seeks your spiritual ruin.
SDG rmb 4/10/2022 #515